Dog Fighting Growing in the US

What does this say about our national soul that something as evil as dog fighting is actually growing here? This is a shame on all...

What does this say about our national soul that something as evil as dog fighting is actually growing here? This is a shame on all of us.

It’s time our judges and legislators stop giving this heinous practice a friendly nod and let it by. From now on, we should note EVERY judge who lets a dog fighter off with a slap on the wrist. We should also mark EVERY legislator who votes against tougher legislation against dog fighting or who makes himself absent when these important votes are taken. Let’s remember these co-conspirators of dog fighting when election time rolls around. If anyone knows of a good source already keeping a list of these judges and legislators, please bark in!

Thanks to the Palm Beach Post for this article.

Vicious fight: World of dogfighting seems to be growing despite awareness of its cruel side

By Carlos Frias

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mary Bart Houston knows where her 12-year-old pit bull Bugsy spends his lazy days while she’s at work – under the covers of her bed, his head on her pillow, snoring like a freight train.

But this is not how she found him six years ago.

Houston, the director of operations at the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League in West Palm Beach, adopted the emaciated, red-nosed dog from her own shelter. He had scars, physically and emotionally, probably from being used as bait for dogs training to fight.

“With love and trust, he’s one of the best dogs I have ever had,” Houston said. “He just had a rough start in life.”

Kennels across America are full of pit bulls that have been mistreated or abandoned by their owners. The Humane Society estimates that 40 percent of dogs in shelters are pit bulls, outnumbering all other breeds. And there is a reason why.

“A good percentage have scars on their bodies indicating they have been in a fight,” said John Goodwin, an animal fighting expert for the Humane Society.

Pit bulls are the most popular breed used in dogfighting, a blood sport that exists in an underground world, coming to light only through rare, high-profile cases. The latest came last month when Virginia police, on a drug investigation, raided a house formerly owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and found 66 dogs, mostly pit bulls, and equipment used for breeding and fighting dogs. No one has been charged in the case, but officials may be close to issuing indictments, including one for Vick, according to ESPN reports.

As many as 40,000 people in this country participate in dogfighting, which is illegal in every state and a felony crime in 48, including Florida, according to the Humane Society. In Palm Beach County, police and animal control officers periodically find dead or dying pit bulls, dumped in rural areas such as Belle Glade, Loxahatchee and The Acreage.

“Unfortunately, dogfighting seems to be on an upswing,” Goodwin said.

Tough dog, tough-guy mentality

Aficionados of dogfighting span all walks of life and social classes.

The common link is a machismo mentality, said Rhonda Evans, a sociologist and associate professor in the department of criminal justice at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette who has published four academic articles on dogfighting. For them, tough dogs are a symbol of manhood, she said, and by winning, the dogs build up their owners’ ego.

“They see it as a valid, legitimate sport that is no worse than boxing or football,” Evans said. “They believe that these dogs are bred for this and that the dogs love doing what they’re doing. The oxymoron is they love these dogs. The dogs they fight are their pets, their friends.

“At the same time, if they have to kill them, they will.”

Evans said she has interviewed several professional football players as part of her research, but she has found that athletes are no more involved in dogfighting than mainstream, successful businessmen – people you would never peg as “dogmen,” as professional trainers are called. Her research focused on professional dogfighters, who may pay between $25,000 to $40,000 for proven champion dogs and their pups and organize high-stakes fights that are often planned months in advance. She also has studied “hobbyists,” who might train several dogs and fight them against known associates.

But dogfighting is picking up at an amateur level, Goodwin of the Humane Society said, with street fighters setting up fights in abandoned buildings and pitting the dogs “off the chain,” meaning in non-organized, impromptu matches.

There’s also a pop-culture glamorization of dogfighting, several experts said, and pit bulls are the dog of choice. These dogs combine strength and stamina and they can be bred to be aggressive to other animals, attributes that make them the perfect tough-guy status symbol, Evans said.

A powerful-looking pit bull is on the cover of a CD by rapper DMX that’s titled Grand Champ, a reference to a dog that has won five dogfights. Rapper/song writer Jay-Z shows dogs preparing for battle in the uncensored version of his music video, 99 Problems.

Vick isn’t the first athlete to be connected to dogfighting. NBA player Qyntel Woods was accused of hosting dog fights at his Portland home in 2004 and he eventually pled guilty to first-degree animal abuse. Former NFL running back LeShon Johnson received a five-year deferred sentence in 2005 after officials seized 200 dogs during a raid of his dogfighting operation that led to 20 people being convicted. And former Dallas Cowboys lineman Nate Newton was arrested at a dogfight in Texas, although charges were later dropped.

Vick gained support from fellow NFL star Clinton Portis. The Washington Redskins and former University of Miami running back told an Atlanta TV station that he’s familiar with dogfighting from his upbringing in rural Mississippi, and he doesn’t see a problem if Vick is involved with dogfighting.

“I don’t know if he was fighting dogs or not, but it’s his property, it’s his dog,” Portis said. “If that’s what he wants to do, do it. I think people should mind their business.”

Told that dogfighting is a felony, Portis said, “It can’t be too bad of a crime.”

The NFL has responded to the Vick case and Portis’ comments, with Commissioner Roger Goodell saying he was “disappointed and embarrassed for Clinton Portis.”

Portis issued an apology shortly after his comments aired. As for Vick, the league issued a statement promising action if he is found guilty:

“Dogfighting is cruel, degrading, and illegal. We support a thorough investigation into any allegations of this type of activity. Any NFL employee proved to be involved in this type of activity will be subject to prompt and significant discipline under our personal conduct policy.”

While many athletes never cross the line into dogfighting, they do acknowledge the appeal of owning intimidating dogs.

“The dog is going to be a reflection of the owner,” said Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, who has owned a pit bull and bull mastiff. “You grab a mutt off the street and you teach that mutt to be mean, then that mutt is going to be mean. … I don’t too much care for a passive dog.”

Last September, while Porter was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, his dogs got out of the yard of his Pennsylvania home and mauled a neighbor’s miniature horse, killing it. Porter was cited by police and later apologized to his neighbor.

In 1994, one of the pit bulls owned by NBA star Latrell Sprewell bit an ear off one of his daughters, who was 4 at the time.

Dogfighting linked to other crime

Perhaps no one is monitoring the Vick case more closely than Chip Rogers.

Five years ago, a 3-year-old boy in the Georgia state senator’s district was attacked by a pit bull used for fighting. The boy has had eight surgeries on his face.

“He will forever be deformed by the attack,” Rogers said.

Dogfighting is a felony in Georgia, but it is not a crime to breed a dog for fighting or to attend a dogfight, Rogers said. He has tried to pass a bill to close that loophole in each of the past three years, but each time the bill has died before reaching the governor’s desk.

“If this Michael Vick incident helps us pass a law, then, I guess, some good will have come out of it,” Rogers said.

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